Your 2013 Season Starts in the Gym Part One: Cyclists
As we wind down another season of riding, running and swimming (or if you're insane enough, you did all three in an Ironman...), its time to start thinking about how you will "undo" all of the repetitive stress from all of the hours spent training, competing and enjoying another Spring and Summer of events.
Ideally it should start now, like as soon as you finish reading this. In fact, stop reading right now and do three sets of :30 planks, 15 single leg squats on each side and finish up with some "Johnnie Moes" to rebuild your hip strength. I'll wait for you to finish.....
Ok, since I KNOW all of you did the exercises, I'll keep going. The reason that 2013 starts in the gym is because you've spent 8-9 months engaging in repetitive stress activities, and the chances that you've developed some muscle imbalances and reduced mobility are probably pretty good. The good news, they can be reversed with the right strategy. Lucky for you, I know of such gems.
I'm breaking this out into three parts because riders, runners and swimmers need the same foundation, but they've got individual things to address based on the particular sport. We'll get started with cycling, and finish up with swimming on part three.
Before we get too much farther, I fill you in as to where the gym work shouldn't begin:
on the leg press
in hamstring curl machine
seated in the knee extension machine
squatting, etc in the Smith machine
with a DVD
with crunches or any other spinal flexion work
using 2-5lb dumbells to press or curl
on a stairclimber, stepmill or elliptical machine, it isn't cross training and won't help undo 2012
Here's where it should begin:
addressing any joint pain that may exist FIRST
improving joint mobility
opening up your anterior chain by training the posterior chain
lunges every way possible
thoracic spine mobility restoration
standing to do everything for at least a month, maybe two
perfecting your hip hinge
working on full diaphragm breathing and not in the chest
a three-day/week strength training program, yes three with one dedicated solely to mobility work (I'd even be so bold as to say four with two days a week of mobility work, that's what I'm planning on for myself and my clients)
Several months of sitting in the saddle enjoying your favorite stretches of pavement and single track are awesome endeavors. Whether you've completed your first event in the saddle, or your 50th, you should pat yourself on the back for making it through a successful season.
After you do that, here's what you need to do next. Start working on any ranges of motion lost in the hips and upper back.
Cycling is notorious for tightening these areas up, and the faster you can address them the better. Not too mention if you've had any crashes that may have tightened things up further and built up scar tissue adhesions. Remember, cycling will rob you of more core strength/mobility/flexibility/tissue quality than it will ever build, so approach putting yourself back together accordingly.
You want to make sure your hip flexors aren't shutting down the glutes, your lats fire, your mid and lower traps are supporting you and your spinal erectors are doing their job to help you maintain a neutral spine. I've had a few of these issues kick in in seasons past, and trust me, you don't want to have to deal with losses of joint mobility. Its boring as hell, feels even worse and just isn't all that fun.
So this means start on lunges in every variation possible. Do bridges until it hurts for oxygen molecules to make contact with your glutes. Stand and pull, then stand and press. Essentially, with the exception of planks and one or two other things, do everything in a standing position.
Your first month should look like this:
Mon: strength with a focus on hip mobility and opening up the Thoracic spine
Tue: mobility + self myofascial release (SMR) + bridges
Wed: same as Monday
Thu: off, or optional SMR + a few minutes of mobility + bridges
Fri: straight mobility + self myofascial release to completely undue all of if with long rides over the weekend!
Saturday: Ride + rolling out/mobility post ride + bridges
Sunday: same as Saturday
Now, you'll notice there aren't stretching days in there. There's a reason for that.
I've seen people regain ranges of motion faster with mobility work and dynamic flexibility. Can you stretch? Yes, but keep in mind there's a reason neurologically as to why your muscles have tightened up, and your better off going after the dysfunctions with movement to restore proper postural alignment. And for cyclists, this means hammering the posterior chain with movement to put yourself back together.
So, yes, you CAN stretch, but there may be faster ways to put yourself back together, and for people with impacted weekely schedules, you want the most bang for your buck. Plus, stretching won't restore tissue quality the same way that SMR + mobility work will. To illustrate this, tie a rubber band in a knot in the middle, then pull it apart from both sides. I'd bet the farm that the knot was still there post stretch. Same idea as to what I'm talking about.
While that seems like a tall order to do in one week, it isn't. Straight mobility days can be something as simple as 10 mins of rolling, 5 mins of multi-directional lunges, 5 minutes of bridges and 5 minutes of thoracic spine openers. You're looking at 25 mins, and feeling better a lot faster.
The first month should also include learning how to properly control/fire/sequence the muscles with static or isometric holds. The reason being is because its critical to make sure your muscles can keep you from moving before you train them on how actually get you moving. So this means you're doing:
standing/kneeling/split stance anti-rotation holds with a band or cable pulley
prone cobra holds
Start your off season with the strategy I've put together, and you will set yourself up to easily progress into month two and some serious stability work. If you've got any questions, please put up a comment and I'll be more than happy to help!
Never attempt any new exercises mentioned in the Fitness411 blog without a thorough evaluation from a physician, personal trainer, strength coach, athletic trainer, physical therapist or sports chiropractor.